Invercargill man who formed Southland Rock N Roll Hall of Fame recognized in Queen’s Birthday Honors
Neil McDermott received the Queens Service Medal for service to music advocacy and the community
Invercargill’s music enthusiast, Neil McDermott is a self-proclaimed “bottom boy” – the one who organizes all the behind-the-scenes events.
But now he says he was propelled to the front.
McDermott will receive the Queen’s Service Medal for his services to the promotion of music and the community as part of this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.
But it’s not all about him, he says.
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“It’s about the immense satisfaction that I had [throughout the years].”
He says his wife Susan has always been behind him every step of the way, despite being a music and rugby widow for over 50 years.
When McDermott was 18, he fronted the Southland band 13th Hour, which was the Southland Cycling Association’s John Farnham Show support act in the 1960s, “when [Farnham] was 19 and a nervous teenager,” McDermott said.
Here he worked with the late Maaki Goodwillie, whom McDermott names his biggest supporter.
The couple also worked together from 1985 to 1989, when he was the entertainment manager for the Makarewa Country Club, hosting concerts almost every weekend.
After that, in the 1990s, he launched a campaign for Southland artists who achieved national or international success to be publicly recognized at Invercargill. This led the city council to establish a Walk of Fame outside the Civic Theater in 2004.
But his initiatives do not stop there. His 2003 initiative to celebrate Southland musician Dave Kennedy resulted in the formation of the Southland Rock N Roll Hall of Fame – an event which took place annually until 2017.
McDermott was the organizer and driving force behind the event, devoting countless volunteer hours to organizing, promoting and negotiating.
He helped research the 2006 book 45 South: In Concert, which focused on Southland musicians. He also found funds and entered into a printing contract.
It was through this that he befriended musician and fellow Queen’s birthday honoree Chris Chilton.
“He’s the only guy who can compete with me in running an event,” McDermott said.
He and Goodwillie spent two days delivering the book to all Invercargill schools and professional businesses.
But music is not his only passion. For 15 years McDermott volunteered with Rugby Southland as match day staff, team/match liaison.
“I’ll be out in all weathers, supporting the [Southland] Stags and teams on and off the field.
In the 1970s he also co-wrote articles on Southland rugby.
Things on the music and sports scene quieted down for a while, but it wasn’t long before McDermott was itching again.
He began supporting the Invercargill Public Library by donating over 1,800 music-focused books, and more recently helped turn the library into a community center, where he hosted events.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” McDermott said.
He credits library workers Jill Harpur and Saniya Thompson for enabling him to continue providing entertainment at the library and giving everyone access to a large collection of popular music biographies, he said.
McDermott received the Special Achievement Award at the Southland Entertainment Awards in 2006 and again in 2013.